| Modi: What’s next'
New Delhi/Coimbatore, Aug. 1: Two confidants of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi today rushed to the Union law minister for “advice and guidance” after the National Human Rights Commission petitioned the Supreme Court for retrial of the Best Bakery case outside the state.
Minister of state for home Amit Shah and law minister Ashok Bhatt expressed their anger to Arun Jaitley, Gujarat BJP sources said.
They reportedly told Jaitley there was no “need” for the rights panel to go to the apex court when the state was thinking of challenging in the high court the acquittal of all accused in the bakery massacre within the statutory appeal period of two months.
Asked to confirm the plan to contest the acquittal, Bhatt said: “There is still time and what we plan to do or not to do will be known to you all. At this stage, my own comment is no comment.”
Neither Jaitley nor parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who was also contacted by Shah and Bhatt, were available for comment.
Modi himself reserved comments in Coimbatore, where he will address a Tamil Nadu BJP rally. “No comments. This is the supreme democratic institution and the judicial system is also involved, and I respect all the institutions of our country,” he said at a news conference. Modi said “I will not react at all”, when specifically asked about witnesses’ allegations of coercion by the BJP to lie in court in the bakery case.
Reacting to queries whether as chief minister he could ensure fair trial in his state in all riot cases, he said: “It is not the job of the chief minister. It is the job of the judiciary.” He also ducked a query on witnesses feeling scared to depose before the Nanavati Commission probing the post-Godhra riots. “I have not seen this type of report. There are no complaints before the government on this,” Modi said.
Unlike Modi, state BJP sources were forthright in their criticism. They said they saw the rights panel’s “action” as a “frontal onslaught on the federal polity and an expression of no-confidence in the state judicial court”. “This sentiment was conveyed by our ministers to Jaitley and Sushma,” the sources said.
Banaskantha MP Haribhai Chowdhury demanded to know if the rights panel would seek similar revaluation of acquittals in the 1969 and 1984 Gujarat communal riots or those after the Babri Masjid demolition.
“Will the Supreme Court be confined to just a review court of past decisions'” he asked.
The BJP national leadership was equally belligerent in the party’s official response. Parliamentary party spokesman V.K. Malhotra urged Gujarat to contest the rights panel’s special leave petition.
He said though he did not yet consider the statutory body “anti-Hindu”, “if they (rights panel) make anti-Hindu pronouncements, people will begin to think that way.”
Malhotra said the panel’s action was “unprecedented” and would encourage any aggrieved party to file a review appeal outside the state. “If all cases are taken outside the state, (then) what happens' In Gujarat alone, between 1985 and 1992, there were 4,000 communal incidents and 99 per cent acquittals.”
Congress spokesman Satyavrat Chaturvedi said the BJP’s remarks were a “reflection of its leaders’ perverted mentality”.
“They have shown disrespect to every constitutional body, whether it is Central Vigilance Commission, Public Accounts Committee, Comptroller and Auditor-General, Election Commission. But the attack on the NHRC has crossed all limits,” he said.